Get A Grip: Latest plan for downtown inspires optimism

There have been so many plans, so many different visions, that it would be easy to be pessimistic about the chances of the latest plan to help revitalize downtown Kingman.

But I think there is reason for optimism this time around.

Kingman City Manager Roger Swenson and an ad hoc committee recently released a report detailing their vision and plans for downtown Kingman's future.

The proposal will go before the City Council at its Oct.

7 meeting.

(The Kingman City Council will meet at 7 p.m.

Oct.

7 at 301 N.

Fourth St.; the meeting is open to the public.)

The reason for optimism is simple: leadership.

With Swenson assuming a leadership position on the issue, the various groups working to make changes downtown will have a point person to work with.

Up until now the efforts to revitalize downtown Kingman have sparked and fizzled like dud firecrackers.

Many different groups have formed and worked hard to bring some dignity back to Kingman's dying downtown.

But every time something has been missing.

Small gains have been made but an overall vision and a strong voice of support from city hall was lacking.

Swenson seems dedicated to providing that strong voice of support and with his leadership, I see hope for downtown Kingman.

Anyone with vision can see the incredible potential of historic downtown.

What is now slightly seedy and peeling can sparkle and become a source of pride.

Like so many other downtown areas, Kingman's business center moved away from its historic home.

The city's economy moved 'up the hill' and downtown was left to government offices and a few tenacious and dedicated businesses.

Downtown's many treasures began to crumble and peel.

One such treasure, the Powerhouse, was lifted up, dusted and polished and has become a showplace for downtown with tourist information, a restaurant, shops and a museum.

Down the street, the historic Santa Fe depot recently benefited from a guerilla paint job and, thanks to the Herculean efforts of city staff, is awaiting a major renovation to include an Amtrak waiting room and railroad museum.

A few years back the City Council had some sidewalks installed downtown giving the area a much cleaner image.

The ad hoc committee envisions more clean up work in the immediate future including more frequent street sweeping, weeding and the installation of city trash cans.

To give the historic district an identity, special signs and banners are planned.

These projects will have an immediate benefit as passers-by see a cleaner, prouder Kingman.

The passers by, of course, are the target of much of the efforts.

With a large chuck of Kingman's economy dependent on tourism, these expenditures in downtown aren't frivolous expenses, they're investments.

The committee also plans to market downtown Kingman with the theme, "Trains, Planes and Automobiles," to reflect the history of this community built along a rail line and defined by Route 66 and the airport.

Getting some the millions of travelers who regularly zip by Kingman on Interstate 40 to slightly alter their route is another goal of the committee.

The group plans signs directing traffic through Kingman on the Route 66 loop between Andy Devine Avenue and Beale Street.

Even for hurried travelers anxious to get to the Grand Canyon or Las Vegas, the loop offers a quick jaunt on storied Route 66.

The city is likely to inherit a major problem downtown as the Mohave County Sheriff's Office vacates the crumbling old hospital building on Beale Street and moves into its new digs up the street.

What to do with the once-lovely building will be a problem.

One idea is to preserve the façade of the building, open the front arches and use the structure as an entry into an expanded Metcalfe Park.

This is a wonderful idea and the façade could also serve as a dramatic backdrop for an outdoor concert venue.

There are many more wonderful ideas for improvements to downtown Kingman and I applaud Swenson and his committee for working to bring together everyone interested in this vitally important project.

I also applaud the City Council for committing funds to the project.

Finally, there is real reason for hope.

With all of these talented people orchestrating a polishing, the world will soon see the shining gem that is downtown Kingman.